In May 2016, a fact-finding mission conducted by the Brisbane Archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission reported that West Papua was experiencing a “slow-motion genocide.” The report also warned that West Papua’s indigenous population is at risk of becoming “an anthropological museum exhibit of a bygone culture.”
The culprit behind these atrocities is none other than the Indonesian military, which has long received immense protection from the United States, as well as from regional allies like Australia. Rather than withdrawing its support for the practice of wiping out the victims in West Papua, these countries continue to enable Indonesia as it carries out numerous atrocities, which receive close to zero media coverage.
For example, just last month the Jakarta Post reported that the Indonesian military shot dead a parishioner standing on his church’s front porch, injuring three other parishioners as hundreds of villagers were forced to flee into nearby forests.
“His name was Timotius Omabak, he was shot and killed recently during Indonesian military raids in West Papuan villages,” the Free West Papua Campaign (FWPC) told Anti-Media via email.
“When the Indonesian army arrives in the villages people are scared. People often run and hide in churches, but the military will chase them. The Indonesian military claim they are hunting for people who support independence, but in reality, almost everyone in these areas supports independence. Recently, the West Papuans people’s petition, calling for an internationally supervised vote on independence, was signed by 1.8 million West Papuan people, 70% of the population. How can the Indonesian military hunt for people who support independence when an overwhelming majority of people support independence? These instances are part and parcel of daily life while there is Indonesian rule in West Papua. They have gone on for over 50 years and will only stop when the Indonesian military finally leaves.”
A recent Facebook post purporting to show a bombing raid by Indonesian forces (also completely ignored by the corporate media) is apparently a common occurrence for the subjugated people of West Papua.
“The bombing of West Papuan villages by the Indonesian military is nothing new,” FWPC explained to Anti-Media.
“Over the last 50 years, countless thousands of West Papuans have been killed by Indonesian bombs. We received reports that the Indonesian military had fired rockets into some West Papuan villages around the Freeport mine area. It was reported that two people had been killed. There is no international media presence in the area so it remains very difficult to find out exactly what happened. The Indonesian military keeps tight control of who goes anywhere in the area. The FWPC urges all international media to go to the area where the Indonesian military is carrying out its operations to find out the truth from local people on the ground.”
Indonesia has a long, documented history of blocking reporting on its activities in Papua. Earlier this year, the Indonesian military forced a BBC journalist to leave Papua and return to Jakarta after her statements on Twitter “hurt soldiers’ feelings.”
At least 500,000 West Papuans have been killed by the Indonesian military since 1961. Remember this statistic when the media urges you to believe that people like Donald Trump care about the death toll in Syria and elsewhere, all while the U.S. ignores staggering casualties caused by one of its Indo-Pacific allies.
“It’s difficult to understand sometimes why West Papua is not in the international news,” FWPC also added.
“Many other places in the world are on the international news, but not West Papua. In the history of the world over the last 50 years, West Papua is one of the big injustices with so many people killed, but still today many people have never heard about West Papua. The Indonesian government has always been able to hide what it has done in West Papua, but now, in the internet age, they can no longer hide. Gradually the world is finding out the truth about West Papua. We hope that international media can get to West Papua and help expose the truth.”
The reason this conflict typically receives close to zero media coverage is simple. West Papua is home to one of the world’s largest gold mines (and third largest copper mine), known as the Grasberg Mine, which is majority-owned by the American mining firm Freeport McMoRan. The mine has reserves worth an estimated $100 billion, and the American company is reportedly Indonesia’s biggest taxpayer – hence the cover from the Indonesian military.
“The West Papuan people always continue our struggle for our right to self-determination, decolonisation, and independence,” FWPC articulated to Anti-Media.
“For 55 years we struggled, and still today we continue. We may be slow in getting there, but we will get there in the end. We hope all the world can study the history of West Papua and understand why we have the right to self-determination, an internationally supervised vote, a referendum on independence. We hope that all people of the world, wherever they are, can find their own way to support us in our struggle. One day we will be free people.”